Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners

THE TED LARE LOOK

Starting a garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. The satisfaction and pride in successfully growing and then eating your own veggies is awesome, not to mention they have so much more flavor than store-bought. Here are some tips for starting your own garden as a beginner.

Choosing a Space To Grow

You’ll need space to grow your veggies, but that doesn’t mean you need to get down on your hands and knees or have a big backyard. There are so many different options for gardening now—you can even garden on a tiny apartment patio! Here are 3 of the most common spaces to grow veggies.

Starting a Garden in Raised Beds

If you have space and DIY skills, you can build raised garden beds inexpensively. Not interested in DIY? You can also buy pre-made raised beds or hire a local contractor to build some for you. One of the best tips for starting these, affordably, is to do some research on hugelkultur—yes, a strange word, but a fascinating concept!

Starting a Garden in Pots and Planters

If you have a small outdoor space or no backyard, you may need to keep your garden in containers. That doesn’t mean you have to eliminate things like potatoes or carrots, though. You can easily grow potatoes in grow bags and carrots in deep buckets or plant pots. Just a tip, if you’re going to start a garden in buckets, make sure you drill drainage holes into the bottoms of your containers.

Prepping an In-ground Garden Space

There’s always the classic of clearing a patch of soil and growing right in the ground. Gardening in the ground can be physically challenging. But, the advantage of starting an in-ground garden is that, if you have decent soil, which most of Iowa does, you don’t have to water and fertilize as much as container or raised bed gardeners do. 

Lifting sod, digging over the soil so you can work in it, and weeding will be a lot of work. And you’ll probably have tons of weeds to tackle in the first few years, but in-ground gardens do have advantages, like being more drought resilient. 

Soil Quality Matters

Once you’ve decided on your planting space, raised beds, pots, or in the ground, you’ll need to think about soil. The ideal soil is a nice dark-colored loam. If you’re not sure what to fill your raised beds or containers with, stop by the garden center, our staff can give you tips to help choose the right option for your situation.

What Loamy Soil Should Feel Like

When loamy soil is a bit damp, you should be able to quite easily dig up a handful with your fingers and pack it like a snowball. It should hold its shape, but it should break apart easily if you pinch or push a finger into it. If you’re growing in the ground and unsure if your soil is good enough, you can get a test kit from the garden center to find out what nutrients it lacks. 

Why You Need To Keep Improving Your Soil

Improving your soil is one of the most important things you can do to take care of your garden and support healthy plants every year. Start composting, and add the finished compost into your garden every year. The trick to composting is to make sure it gets turned frequently, at a minimum once per week. You never want to add fresh compost to a garden.

The Best Veggie Plants for Beginner Gardeners

There are plenty of veggies that are easy to grow, but the most important thing to consider when starting your garden is what veggies you like to eat. There’s no point in growing zucchini if you can’t stand to eat it. So, sit down and figure out what your favorite veggies are, and then see which ones are on this list of the easiest veggies to grow:

  • Arugula
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
watering garden

How to Water Your Veggie Garden?

Generally speaking, similar to your lawn, gardens should need about 1 inch of water per week, total. That includes any rainfall. During the hottest days of summer, you may need to supplement watering. Whenever possible, water early in the morning, so the water has time to evaporate off the leaves before evening to lower the risk of fungal infections or attracting pests like slugs. Also, try to water just the soil, avoiding the leaves all together; a drip irrigation system is ideal for this.

Container gardens and raised beds will need more frequent watering. In raised beds, stick your finger in the soil about once a day. If it’s dry 2 inches deep, you should water. If it’s still damp, you can leave it a bit longer. On a hot or particularly windy day, check multiple times within the same day. The same goes for growing in containers, but there’s a good chance you’ll have to water almost daily in containers. 

Remember, this main tip for watering: a long deep soak less often is better than a little bit of water every day; this is because a long deep soak encourages roots to grow down into the moist soil. If you only water a little bit every day, the roots stay right near the top, and plants are less stable and less resilient to heat or drought.

Come see us to get your vegetable garden started today!

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The Ted Lare Look

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